The future of Ursus (which means ‘bear’ in Polish) was brought into question recently when the Polish company issued a very brief and rather cryptic bulletin noting that it has started talks with Zetor tractors.
The talks are confidential. However, the company did say that it will focus on “possible international cooperation and common investment activities” between the two companies.
One speculative conclusion that may be drawn from the announcement is that the company is exploring the possibility of a future merger.
Ursus remains a fairly minor tractor producer. The company sold only 259 tractors into its home market in the first eight months of this year.
However, the memo went on to say that “the above-mentioned agreement is a beginning to an execution for a strategy in establishing an alliance of producers of tractors in Central-Eastern Europe”.
This would suggest that there are moves afoot within the region to bring together the diverse tractor manufacturers in a bid to compete with western brands.
Such an arrangement is not without precedent.
In 1962 the ‘Mutual Development Centre’ was established between Zetor, Ursus and UTB (Universal Tractors of Romania). Its original intention was to develop a tractor industry in Poland in return for supplying components and materials to Czechoslovakia.
The joint agreement resulted in the 80hp Zetor 8011 (pictured above); or better known as the ‘Crystal’.
It was built in Zetor’s Brno factory using components supplied by all three companies. Zetor supplied the engine, transmission and cab; Ursus provided the rear axle and hydraulics; and UTB the front axle. Ursus later produced its own version, built in Poland.
Another attempt at cooperation between smaller European tractor manufacturers occurred in the mid 1980s when Steyr, Fendt, Renault and Valmet held discussions on a joint venture.
This was also in response to the Anglo-American dominance of the market. However, the talks failed and it is only Renault (absorbed into Claas) which escaped take-over by larger American corporations.